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Kelly Slater’s Olympic hopes end in Tahiti

Kelly Slater

US surfer Kelly Slater waits for a wave at Teahupo’o in Tahiti, French Polynesia on August 11, 2023, during the heat 1 of the WSL Shiseido Tahiti pro surfing event. Teahupo’o will host the surfing event of the Paris 2014 Olympic Games. (Photo by Ben Thouard / AFP) (Photo by BEN THOUARD/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Kelly Slater’s bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympics at age 51 came to an end in Tahiti on Tuesday.

Slater was eliminated in the round of 16 at his last World Surf League event of the season at Teahupo’o, the French Polynesian venue that will host next year’s Olympic competition.

Slater, a record 11-time world champion, needed to reach the semifinals to keep hope alive of qualifying for the Games.

He was primed to advance to the quarterfinals, leading the world’s fifth-ranked man, Yago Dora of Brazil, with 90 seconds left in their 35-minute heat.

Dora took the final wave needing the highest single score of the matchup — and got it: eight points to overtake Slater by 24 hundredths of a point.

The U.S. Olympic surfing team is nearly set: Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, Caity Simmers, Griffin Colapinto and John John Florence already qualified.

The U.S. could get one more men’s spot if it wins the team event at next year’s World Surfing Games. That possible spot would be filled by an American man who makes the semifinals in Tahiti. If none make the semis, then it will go to the third American in the WSL season standings (behind Colapinto and Florence) after Tahiti finishes.

Slater entered Tahiti ranked sixth among Americans this season and will not move up after his elimination Tuesday.

Before this season began in February, Slater said this will be his last Olympic bid. He missed the U.S. Olympic team for surfing’s debut at the Tokyo Games by one spot.

“The next [Olympics] I’ll be 55 years old. I’m not going to be on tour by then,” he said in February. “I did say that at 40, though, when I was talking about being 50.”

Slater’s best finish in nine contests this season was ninth place. It’s the first year he hasn’t made the quarterfinals of any contest in more than 30 years.

Last year, he won the season-opening Pipeline Masters, then made one quarterfinal the rest of the season while missing two events due to a torn psoas or labrum, an injury that lingered into 2023.

“I’ve just been in a slump for like a year,” Slater said in April.